Buying produce from local farmers might seem like something that was only done before supermarkets started appearing in every city and small town. But farmer’s markets are starting to pop up more and more across the country, and they’re not just an avenue to buy fresh produce. Farmer’s markets are becoming a way to teach better nutrition to adults and children alike.
With childhood obesity rates skyrocketing across the country, parents and schools are taking steps to help children get on the path to good eating. Nation-wide health initiatives like those set forth by First Lady Michelle Obama are one way that children are learning about eating right and being active. But local farmers are also taking a hand, pairing with schools in farm-to-school programs and showing kids that eating healthy can be tasty and fun. Getting kids to eat kale might normally be a chore, but one farm-to-school program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, taught kids to make kale chips – kale baked with a little soy sauce – that taste like potato chips but are much, much healthier.
Farmer’s markets are a great way to encourage healthy habits, as well (in both children and adults). When buying from local farmers, shoppers can find out exactly how produce was grown, what chemicals, if any, were used, and can learn tips on how to clean and prepare their fruits and vegetables as well. And unlike a lot produce that has been shipped from far away, locally grown produce is allowed to fully ripen before it is picked, which is often the day it’s sold. Freshness equals better taste and fewer risks of bacteria forming.
Another benefit of farmer’s markets is, of course, the support of local farmers. Their sales at farmer’s markets can help keep them on their farms and working land that might otherwise be turned into a large store or development. It is also a way to educate a community about the benefits of farming, to keep farming traditions alive, and to create co-ops so farmers can work together to keep each other in business.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative in 2009 in an effort to strengthen “the connection between farmers and consumers to better meet critical goals, including reinvigorating rural economies, promoting job growth, and increasing healthy food access in America.” Supporting local farmers is a great way to eat better, keep jobs in your area, and inform kids about healthy eating habits.